Beyond The Wall

What Arya Stark's Catchphrase Means for Her Character's Future

game of thrones
HBO
This post contains spoilers up through Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4. Visit Beyond the Wall, our official Game of Thrones hub page for recaps, theories, spoilers, explainers, and the best episodes of all time.

Over the course of Game of Thrones, we've watched our favorite and least favorite characters grow and change and adapt to the challenges and trauma they've faced climbing the chaotic ladder toward the Iron Throne. But there's one character in Westeros who's always known who she is, even when she thought she didn't: Arya Stark. Arya's journey has been arguably the most exciting to watch, taking her from the comfortable walls of Winterfell to the hellish chaos of King's Landing, all the way through the lawless Riverlands to Braavos, where she learned how to expertly murder people. Now she's back in her homeland, crossing names off her list, crossing life experiences off her list, and, uhh, saving the whole damn world. This weekend's episode was full of questionable decisions and nonsensical plot developments, but the Arya we know and love is back.

A few episodes ago, we watched as she consummated her longtime flirtation with Gendry, not wanting to die a virgin before the biggest battle she'd ever faced. Not only did Gendry give her what she wanted, she survived the battle, stabbing the Night King and saving Westeros from the threat of the undead forever. To thank Gendry for his heroics during battle, Daenerys granted him the lordship of Storm's End, making him Gendry Baratheon officially. The dude is sweet, but he's also a big boneheaded dummy, because the first thing he did after that big We Survived party was ask Arya to marry him.

In classic dude fashion, Gendry's only thinking about himself here: "All I know is you're beautiful and I love you, and none of it will mean anything if you're not with me," he said to her, getting down on one knee. Arya, to her credit, gently but firmly shut him down.

"You'll be a wonderful lord," she told him. "And any lady would be lucky to have you. But I'm not a lady. I never have been. That's not me."

For longtime watchers of the show, this last exchange might sound familiar. That's because "That's not me" is something Arya has said before, to another boneheaded sweetie who thought he was doing everything right. Wayyyyy back in Season 1, when Ned Stark tells her the state of gender politics in their country (women can't be knights or lords, but they can certainly run a household and cook and clean and have babies, oh goody), Arya rejects his binary thinking outright.

"You will marry a high lord and rule his castle," Ned said. "And your sons shall be knights, and princes, and lords."  But Arya shook her head: "No. That's not me."

We heard this again, but inverted, in Season 7, when Arya and her direwolf Nymeria had a long-awaited reunion. Nymeria has become a powerful woman in her own right, the matriarch of a huge pack of wolves that patrol the North, and as soon as Arya locked eyes with her she asked her wolf to come on her journey with her.

"I'm heading North, girl. Back to Winterfell," she said, "I'm finally going home. Come with me."

But Nymeria gave her a couple sniffs and then turned and ran off into the snow. Arya sat back, looking a little disappointed, but then she accepted the wolf's decision: "That's not you."

The Stark direwolves have long acted as a kind of outward representation of the Stark children's souls: when Lady was killed, Sansa lost her Stark-ness for a while; when Robb was murdered, the Freys beheaded his wolf Grey Wind; when Bran became the Three-Eyed Raven, his wolf Summer died defending him against wights; and when Ramsay Bolton tossed Shaggydog's head at Jon Snow's feet, we should have known immediately that Rickon was doomed. Ghost was Jon's companion the entire time he was in the North -- and now that Jon's journeying down to King's Landing to, perhaps, claim his rightful place as a Targaryen heir, he no longer feels that connection to his direwolf. So he gave him to Tormund, a man who looks like he'll take good care of a direwolf.

Arya lost Nymeria early when she banished her, Harry and the Hendersons-style, to protect her after Nymeria bit Joffrey in Season 1. Nymeria's been living her life independent of the rules all this time, and Arya has followed in the same mold. She's never been interested in conforming to what's expected of her, which is a good thing because it probably saved her life. With Arya and The Hound traveling to King's Landing together, echoing their previous wandering journey, they're both looking for closure on their own terms. It's what Arya's always done.  

Instead of accepting a marriage proposal and becoming a high lady and ruling a castle, or traveling with Jon or Daenerys as a soldier in their army, she's setting off to finish crossing names off her list. Whether she gets to deliver the final blow to Cersei, or she helps the North win the war, or she gives assistance to The Hound in the impending Cleganebowl, one thing's for sure: That is her.

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.